Do You Work for a Bully Boss? Are You One?

One of my favorite historical fiction authors is Colleen McCullough. She masterfully weaves extensive research with real and imagined characters to bring an historical period alive. Her five book, Masters of Rome, series is outstanding. In Book 3, Fortune’s Favorites, she describes a

scene in the Roman senate when the dictator Sulla asked for any objections to his proposal. Ofella spoke up in opposition to Sulla’s plans. Without saying a word, Sulla motioned to his henchmen waiting at the doors. They carried Ofella out to the courtyard and sliced off his head. Sulla turned back to the senate and asked, “Are there any other comments?” There was no further opposition from the floor.

Few bully bosses immediately kill others like that. Their autocratic behavior is (usually) a bit more subtle. Some can quote the latest management book leader-speak. Sometimes the boss appears to invite discussion on a course of action that he or she has already decided on.

Bully bosses often intimidate their team into silence and take that as agreement. When he or she asks for honest feedback, everyone knows they’re really demanding agreement. Dictatorial bosses often come across with variations of “all those opposed, say ‘I resign.’”

Working for a bully boss can be terrifying — like living with a creature from the black lagoon. If we allow ourselves to be a victim of a horrible boss, we could even end up in an early grave.

Some bad bosses are bad people. Their personal relationships are a disaster, they’re miserably unhappy, and their values are evil. They want to dominate and bully people under them.

But most bad bosses don’t mean it. They are good people doing a bad job. Many are blissfully ignorant of the dead, wounded, or stressed-out bodies they leave in their wake. They even think they’re good examples of leadership and don’t realize this fatal flaw is overshadowing their strengths.

Are you a bully boss making life miserable for everyone on your team? Do people have to tip toe around you and avoid speaking their truth? How do you know? Are you me-deep in fooling yourself? If you were promoted because of your technical expertise, you might be one of the bright professionals fall into the techno-manager trap.

Are you working for a bully boss? You likely won’t have your head sliced off, but it can be just as deadly. Studies show people stressed out by bad bosses have higher rates of sickness, heart attacks, injuries, and death. You might need strategies to deal with a bad boss. Boss management or upward leadership could make a huge difference in your health and well-being.

The “take-charge boss” has long been associated with the military. “Well,” snarled the tough old sergeant to the fearful private. “I suppose after you get discharged, you’ll just be waiting for me to die so you can come and spit on my grave.”

“Not me, Sarge!” the private replied. “Once I get out of the Army, I’m never going to stand in line again!”

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For over three decades, Jim Clemmer’s keynote presentations, workshops, management team retreats, seven bestselling books, articles, and blog have helped hundreds of thousands of people worldwide. The Clemmer Group is the Canadian strategic partner of Zenger Folkman, an award-winning firm best known for its unique evidence-driven, strengths-based system for developing extraordinary leaders and demonstrating the performance impact they have on organizations. Check out www.clemmergroup.com for upcoming webinars and workshops.

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